A fight is brewing over the practice of feeding chicken feces and other poultry farm waste to cattle. Farmers feed 1 million to 2 million tons of poultry litter to their cattle annually, according to FDA estimates.
A coalition of food and consumer groups that includes Consumers Union and the Center for Science in the Public Interest has asked the Food and Drug Administration to ban the practice of feeding chicken feces and other poultry farm waste to cattle. McDonald's Corp., the nation's largest restaurant user of beef, also wants the FDA to prohibit the feeding of so-called poultry litter to cattle.
Members of the coalition are threatening to file a lawsuit or to push for federal legislation establishing such a ban if the FDA doesn't act to do so in the coming months.
Using the litter -- which includes feces, spilled chicken feed, feathers and poultry farm detritus -- increases the risk of cows becoming infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease, said Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union.
That's because the spilled chicken feed and the feces contain tissue from ruminants, such as cows and sheep, among other mammals. The disease is transmitted through feeding ruminant remains to cattle.
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